It has been awhile since we caught up with Bufori, the Malaysia-based company making cars out of Kepong. In fact, the last time this writer touched based with company founder and leader Gerry Khouri and the good folks at Bufori was nearly a decade ago, when the Bufori Geneva made its debut in the city it was named after. My goodness, how time flies!
There have been no all-new models since the Geneva, but the small volume luxury carmaker has kept itself busy by gathering and fulfilling orders for the Geneva and La Joya. The latter, which is the company’s all-time best-seller, is at the end of its life now, and the final units are being made to order as we speak.
There have been no shortage of customisation work as well – those whose needs go beyond what mass market carmakers can provide often seek out Bufori to provide a bespoke touch to their otherwise normal cars. Fittings for virtually anything can be designed and fabricated here, whether it’s for Alphards or aircraft. Making dreams come true while paying the bills is nice, but Bufori’s own dream is very much alive and well.
Enter the Bufori CS. This is a preview of the company’s upcoming production GT sports car that is set to debut in the first half of 2020. The cars you see here are fully-functioning prototypes of the Compact Sports that you can actually buy next year. The company rolled out a similar looking race car with the “CS” name 10 years ago, but styling aside, there’s nothing in common with the car you see here.
Certain things will remain, but the final version is work in progress – we’ve seen mock-ups incorporating the changes; it will appear different (to my eyes, more conventionally sporty at the expense of looking slightly less distinctive) and there are even structural changes (longer wheelbase to improve ergonomics), but this is a good teaser nonetheless.
Buforis aren’t for everyone. You’ll either hate the cars or find them strangely intriguing. While I respect what they do in Kepong, the cars just aren’t meant to appeal to simpletons like me. But the CS is different. You see, yours truly is a minimalist when it comes to car doors and footprint, and here’s a compact and very shapely coupe in the classic sense.
The CS prototype you see here is 4,555 long and 1,950 mm wide, with a 2,620 mm wheelbase. As a yardstick, the latest 992 Porsche 911 is 36 mm shorter and 98 mm narrower. As you can imagine, the CS has good stance and proportions, and that’s before you take into account the voluptuous body and unconventional details.
Those curves look serious in pictures and sensational in the metal as they hug the CS’ 19-inch alloys (235/35 front, 255/35 rear), which look just about right, size-wise. It’s likely that the Bufori’s slinky dress won’t be the first thing you’ll notice, but its face, which looks unlike any car in production today. Those small eyes, the “moustache grille” – it’s like a Guy Fawkes mask staring at you. Looking at the car from distance, TVR comes to mind. Love or hate, you can’t deny that this car has presence.
Depending on whether you like how this prototype looks, Bufori’s decision to lengthen the production car’s wheelbase by 350 mm can be a good or bad thing. The plan is to make the production CS a proper grand tourer with improved cabin ergonomics.
I didn’t get to drive it, but riding shotgun and trying out the driver’s seat for size confirms the need for change. Currently, the centre tunnel intrudes too much into the footwell, and long distances could prove to be uncomfortable for both occupants.
Less severe, and a matter of getting used to, is the CS prototype’s high cowl and “sporty” feel (read: not very plush) of the Sabelt CF-shell racing seats. All the amenities we demand from a modern car are accounted for, and there’s a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen in the middle along with a colour multi-info display between the chrome-cowled ice blue twin dials.
Those into cars might find elements in the CS cabin familiar, and if you’re thinking Fiat Chrysler – spot on. The biggest giveaway is that distinctive plane-style automatic gear lever, which you’ll find in Jeeps, among other FCA models. Other borrowed elements include the instrument, air con and lighting control panels, which can be found on the Chrysler 300 from a few years back. The gear selector will be changed to either a rotary or push-button type for production.
Nothing wrong with a low volume carmaker buying tried and tested parts off the shelf over attempting to develop everything on their own, as long as everything looks and feels consistent, if you ask us. That Malaysians aren’t familiar with FCA’s US-market models is a bonus for Bufori.
Of course, the Bufori CS is also powered by Mopar. FCA’s 3.6 litre V6 with 320 hp sits under the long hood of these prototypes, and the naturally aspirated Pentastar is mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. We’re told that the production CS will start with a supercharged version of this engine with 500 hp being the target.
The V6 will sit under the flagship CS8 model with a 6.4 litre supercharged Hemi V8 under the hood – the purpose-built motor with forged internals will be good for a hefty 750 hp and 1,000 Nm of torque. An eight-speed auto will send drive to the rear wheels, via a limited slip differential. A Kepong-made car that does 0-100 km/h in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 320 km/h (est) sounds like a joke, except that it’s not.
Matching those big figures are Brembo six-pot brakes in front and four-piston units at the rear. You’ll also find fully adjustable double wishbone suspension at each corner. All off-the-shelf safety and driver assist functions have been included – ABS, EBD, ESC, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic detection are all on, plus a minimum of two airbags and a reverse camera.
Holding all these together is a full carbon-kevlar monocoque; although the prototypes have carbon-kevlar bodies on a stainless steel chassis, the production car will feature the complete version Bufori’s signature underpinnings, which blends strength and lightness. Speaking of that, the target kerb weight for the heavier CS8 is below 1,400 kg.
As mentioned, the production CS will have its wheelbase extended by 350 mm to free up more cabin space and improve ergonomics (Bufori is also promising a more driver-oriented cockpit). The final design will boast a more aggressive front end and even more emphasis on the car’s “muscles”.
The larger body will be able to accommodate 20-inch wheels (for the top CS8), which looks a bit of a push with the prototype body. There will also be quad exhaust tips, at least for the V8-powered CS.
How much do you think such a car – hand-built, carbon-kevlar body, muscle car V8, modern electronics and features – would cost? Bufori is choosing to keep mum for now, but how does RM850k for the supercharged 3.6L V6 and RM1.2 million for the full-fat supercharged 6.4L V8 sound? A 992 Porsche 911 Carrera S (3.0L flat-six, 450 PS, 530 Nm) is priced from RM1.15 million here, by the way.
I can imagine a Bufori buyer to already have all the usual suspects in the garage – he’s likely to be looking for a new plaything to stand out from the crowd, to provide variety, or merely for a laugh just because he can. Or all of the above. With unique looks and a thunderous soundtrack, the Bufori CS would fit the bill nicely.